Carlyle at His Zenith (1848-53)

By David Alec Wilson | Go to book overview

II
CARLYLE IN AN INN (1849)

THE 'Imperial Hotel people brightened up into enthusiastic smiles of welcome at sound of my name,' wrote Carlyle in his notes when his travels were over.1 The reason was that the Hotel belonged to Miss Purcell, aunt of Edward Fitzgerald, who had told her to expect Carlyle, and, indeed, had told everybody else he knew who could be useful to such a visitor. 'All was done for me,' the notes continue, 'that human waiterage could do; I had a briskeyed deft Irish youth by way of special attendant, really a clever, active, punctual youth, who seemed as if he would have run to the world's end for me at lifting of my finger: he got me' everything I wanted, in short, 'attended to my letters, clothes, messages, waited on me like a familiar fairy. . . . Bedroom the quietest they had. . . . Could they have got me into a room really "quiet," where I might have really slept, all had been well there. But that was not possible; not there, nor anywhere else in inns. One's "powers of observation" act under sad conditions, if the nerves are to be continually in a shatter with want of sleep and what it brings! Under that sad condition, as of a gloomy pressure of waking nightmare, were all my Irish operations transacted; no escape from it; therefore say nothing more of it, but do the best you may under it as under a law of fate.'

This was always Carlyle's experience, in England and Scotland, France and Germany, as well as in Ireland; and according to the best expert opinions the reason was not in the inns but in himself. He was suffering from hearing morbidly acute by reason of nervous weakness. The trouble was begun by overstudy in his early years, and abated during the country life at Craigenputtock; but work in London brought it back upon him worse than ever,

____________________
1
Reminiscences of My Irish Journey in 1849, by T. Carlyle, pp. 38-9.

-103-

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